Since the publication of API Recommended Practice (RP) 1173: Pipeline Safety Management Systems, in July 2015, the energy pipeline trade groups in North America (American Petroleum Institute, Association of Oil Pipelines, American Gas Association, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, and the American Public Gas Association) have worked collaboratively to develop tools and programs to assist energy pipeline operators with the development and implementation of Pipeline Safety Management System (Pipeline SMS) programs and processes. These resources include a Planning Tool, Implementation Tool and Evaluation Tool, as well as an industry-developed Maturity Model that describes a continuum of implementation levels, based on conformance to RP 1173 as well as implementation effectiveness.

These resources can be found online and are supplemented by the Pipeline SMS Third-Party Assessment Program developed by API. Applying API’s experiences with successful safety programs in other segments and with significant contributions from the Pipeline SMS Implementation Team (aforementioned trade groups and various industry operators), the Pipeline SMS Third-Party Assessment Program is designed to be a key tool to facilitate Pipeline SMS implementation and to share and benchmark information to drive improvements in safety performance. The assessments also provide the pipeline industry with an objective, third-party option to test their systems and address the conformity auditing (API RP 1173, Section 10.2.2) and performance and maturity evaluation (API RP 1173, Section 10.2.3 to 10.2.5) requirements of the recommended practice. In 2019, pilot assessments were conducted and in 2020 the Assessment Program is being implemented. Through the piloting process, significant insights were gained into the practical application of the industry Maturity Model and how the assessments can contribute to an operator’s journey improving safety performance. Aligning with the flexibility and scalability goals of RP 1173, the pilot experiences included liquids transmission and gas distribution operators with varying approaches to pipeline SMS implementation. We will discuss the lessons learned through the piloting process and how the plan-do-check-act cycle was applied to improve the processes for planning, staffing and conducting the assessments to ensure that value is being provided to the pipeline industry.

An independent assessment through the API Pipeline SMS Third-Party Assessment Program can validate internal efforts to increase maturity of programs, as well as provide operators with benchmarking data so that they can understand where other operators are in their maturity journey.

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